IN all my years of running I’ve never had a training schedule. I’ve always made it up as I go: hills one night, speed the next, a bit of tempo here, a threshold there. I’ve tagged onto other people’s training, joined in with club runs, but never had a plan telling me what I should be doing and when.
For a long time, my slap dash approach has worked. This is mainly because my friend Fiona is an amazing runner, so I trained with her as often as I could. Whatever she did. I did. This was great. I improved so much I even started picking up a few prizes, something I never thought would be possible. When Fiona had a good run, so did I. When Fiona was ill or injured, my fitness suffered. This didn’t bother me too much. I just carried on enjoying it all, amazed to be dong so well. With Fiona’s help, I got my 10k PB down to 40 minutes and won all of this and more.
I was even hopeful of breaking 40 minutes for 10k. I didn’t have a plan as to when and how this would happen. I just believed it would. I was really relaxed about it. I’d just continue training with my friend and it would come, no problem.
But it hasn’t come. I had a great start to the year: a PB at the Dewsbury 10k, third lady at the Wombwell five miles, a Yorkshire silver at the Thirsk 10 miles, third at the Wombwell 10k, and first in my age group at the South Yorkshire Road League. Then it all went horribly wrong. I completely and utterly burned out. It all happened during the Askern 10k, the race where I thought I’d be able to run sub 40. I was way off. While Fiona went from strength to strength, I was struggling.
The next blow was a fitness assessment where they told me I ran like a duck, trained too hard, and was at real risk of getting injured. The result of all this? I was too scared to put one foot in front of the other. I eased back on training. I felt disillusioned and demoralised. And what happens when you don’t train? You lose your fitness!
I took part in the Leeds Run for All 10k in July, and ran my slowest time for years. I was so upset I didn’t even write a blog post about it. I’d wanted that sub 40, but I’d not done any specific training. I’d been too relaxed, thinking that it would just come.
I began to think long and hard about my fitness, my training and my ambitions. Should I just run for fitness? Should I stop racing completely? I wasn’t sure what to do. On top of this, Fiona’s work routine and my work routine changed, making it really difficult to get together to train.
Just when I was ready to walk away from racing, one of the coaches in the local area held a course on endurance running. It included classroom and practical work, covering nutrition, drills, strength, track and interval training. It was only four sessions and sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a go.
I sat in the classroom and listened to everything the coach said. He talked of the importance of having a specific programme for your own fitness, a programme that is tailored to your own strengths and weaknesses. He talked of the importance of targeting races and of having goals. Not once did he mention copying your mate’s training!
I knew some kind of personalised plan was needed. I spoke to the coach. He agreed to help, designing a schedule that targeted the Great North Run. I enjoyed the training, and slowly began to feel better about my running.
About the same time I also started working with Jon Grayson from The Physios in Sheffield. Jon really helped with my confidence. He assessed my running form, and gave me some exercises to improve strength and running technique. Blog post coming soon about this. It was a huge help.
I took part in the Great North Run and had a really positive race. It was the fastest half marathon I’ve ever run, and I was delighted with the 1 hour 34 time. But there was also the feeling that, based on my previous fitness and times, I could do better. The Great North Run was the deciding race. Did I want to carry on racing and training?
The answer was yes. I did. I wanted to do the best I could with the body I have. If this meant racing and training less, eating healthier, doing strength exercises and resting more, so be it.
The coach designed another programme, this time targeting a 10k. I completed the training and felt excited that my fitness was returning. I knew that sub-40 was still a way off, but I was looking forward to racing. Unfortunately, I was struck down with flu and a chest infection, so couldn’t race.
The old plan was thrown out, a new plan was made. This plan is targeting the Dewsbury 10k in February, with a few races along the way. The goal is to run sub-40. Each session includes target times and paces. I don’t have to worry if I’m at the back of the group during training, I just need to run at my pace. It’s all about me! This makes me laugh, but the specific, tailored training is exactly what I need.
I feel better for having a plan. I just hope it comes together!